Most people who follow bodybuilding have heard the name Sally McNeil, but few know her story or the reasons behind her notorious divorce from Craig Titus, one of the most successful bodybuilders in the sport’s history. The little-known true story of this amazing athlete is captured in the new documentary Sally McNeil: The True Story of a Bodybuilding Wife and Her Valentine’s Day Murder, which has been making headlines because it centers around an unsolved murder that many people are convinced they can solve by watching it. Sally McNeil: The True Story of a Bodybuilding Wife and Her Valentine’s Day Murder
Table of Contents
The story of Sally McNeil is one that explores the lengths to which a bodybuilder will go for fame. From childhood, she was always dedicated to fitness. She entered her first bodybuilding competition at age 17, but it wasn’t until her late 20s that she found success in the sport. At 30 years old, she became the youngest woman ever to win the Ms. Olympia title in 1990.
Throughout her career, Sally had been married to fellow bodybuilder Rick McNeil since 1984. Rick supported his wife by managing her career while also caring for their two children from previous marriages while Sally trained rigorously and traveled extensively for competitions around the world.
About Netflix Documentary
The Netflix documentary, Sally McNeil: Killer at Large, tells the story of Sally McNeil. She was born in 1960 as Sally McGinley. She is an American former professional bodybuilder who was convicted for the 1994 murder of her husband. When she was 23 years old, she married Joseph McNeil and they had two children together. When they divorced in 1991, she continued to see him on weekends with their children until his death five years later on February 14th, 1994. After killing him with a 9-inch knife from their kitchen during an argument about custody of their son Joseph Jr., she called 911 but fled before the police arrived. A few days after his death she surrendered to police when he could not be found and confessed to her involvement in his death.
The Cast Netflix Documentary Killer Sally
Killer Sally is an eye-opening documentary that follows the story of Sally McNeil, who was convicted for the murder of her estranged husband. After years as a successful bodybuilder, Sally makes the transition to fitness trainer while also carrying on an affair with one of her clients. When she finds out that her husband has been cheating on her, too, she takes drastic action. This documentary is a cautionary tale about how not to handle infidelity.
Peggy Hook Portrayed Self
The first time I saw Sally McNeil was on the cover of Muscle and Fitness magazine in 1982. She had just won her first Ms. Olympia title, becoming the youngest female bodybuilder ever to do so at age 21. I was in college then, but as I admired her ripped physique, it never occurred to me that she would one day marry my brother-in-law Greg.
I grew up with a family that did not value strength or fitness, so when my two brothers-in-law started competing in bodybuilding competitions, their passion for it fascinated me.
Greg married Sally in 1983 and they had two children together before their marriage ended with her murder by Greg on February 14th 1994.
What happened? Why didn’t anyone see this coming?
John McNeil Portrayed Self
John Edward McNeil (born October 22, 1957), also known as John the Animal, is an American former professional bodybuilder and convicted murderer.
McNeil was born in Chicago, Illinois on October 22, 1957. He began his competitive career with powerlifting at the age of 16 while attending high school.
In 1977, he won the Teenage Mr America competition in Dallas.
The following year he finished second in the AAU Mr America contest to Danny Padilla who outweighed him by 100 pounds. He placed third in 1979 and again in 1980 before winning the title for 1981 – 1982, defeating Paul Dillett both years. By 1983 he had become one of the world’s leading bodybuilders.
Sally McNeil Portrayed Self
A bodybuilder who was also an American professional wrestler, Sally McNeil is best known for her appearance in the 1995 documentary Pumping Iron II: The Women. In 1992, she married her childhood friend Joe McNeely, who was also a bodybuilder. They had one child together before they divorced in 1996. On February 14th, 2000, McNeely was murdered by his former girlfriend and their son’s mother-in-law Michelle Anderson after he refused to reconcile with her.
Shantina McNeil Portrayed Self
I want people to know about the heartache that comes with being in an abusive relationship, the cycle it creates and the toll it takes on your life. I also want others who are in abusive relationships to know they’re not alone. It may seem like you have no one, but there is always someone out there who cares. There is always a way out. And if you think killing your abuser will get rid of the pain, let me tell you this; it won’t. You will still be left with guilt and regret for what you’ve done.
Shannon Brown Portrayed Self
I always admired the beauty and strength of bodybuilders. Sally McNeil (born 1960), also known as Killer McNeil, is an American former professional bodybuilder, convicted murderer, and author. She was born in Levittown, Pennsylvania on February 14th 1960 to Frank McNeil Sr. and Catherine Doyle. In 1982 she married Frank Butch O’Brien, who was also a bodybuilder, with whom she had two children; Frank Jr. and Michelle. They divorced in 1997 when her husband became abusive.
She remarried to trainer Robert Duchaine on October 13, 2001 and they lived together until his death from cancer on December 7, 2005 at age 56. On September 18, 2007 she murdered her then-boyfriend Rick Chavolla by stabbing him twice with a kitchen knife at their Laguna Niguel apartment before turning herself into the police and pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter
and was sentenced to six years imprisonment in 2011
Dan Goldstein Portrayed Self
In the 1980s Sally was married to bodybuilder, Joe DiPasquale. They were both successful in the sport at the time, with Sally holding the title of Mrs. America. Soon after they wed, their marriage started to crumble because Joe refused to stop using drugs. He went missing on December 31st 1988, turning up dead two weeks later with gunshot wounds to his head. In 1990, Sally was arrested for his murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. She served 11 years before being released on bail pending an appeal.
At this point, she changed her name and managed to stay out of trouble until she was re-arrested in 2009 after Joe’s daughter told police that Sally had threatened her father when he first disappeared in 1988. After serving seven more years behind bars, her conviction was overturned due to lack of evidence and she returned home this year.
DJ Jeffers Is Ray’s friend Portrayed Self
I met Sally when we were teenagers living in Southern California. She was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, but I never would have guessed that she one day would become one of the top female bodybuilders in the world. Sally grew up with an abusive mother who struggled with alcoholism and mental illness. As a result, Sally spent her childhood chasing her mother around the house trying to protect her from being beaten by my mom. Sally went on to live a healthy lifestyle, overcame adversity, and became the woman she always wanted to be. Interviews with friends, family and Sally McNeil herself chart a bodybuilding couple’s rocky marriage and its shocking end in a Valentine’s Day murder
Debrosha McCants Is Sally’s friend Portrayed Self
On the morning of February 14, 2010, I got a call from my friend Sally. I had no idea that this call would be the last time I talked to her. She called me at work because she knew that I had seen what happened to her on the news already. My heart dropped when she told me that her husband Kenny killed her with a hammer in their house. She had no warning, nothing at all. He was an amazing man but his anger had gotten out of control over the past few months before he murdered her in their bedroom while they were sleeping together.
William Rafael Is defense attorney Portrayed Self
William Rafael is an experienced attorney who has been defending clients accused of serious crimes for more than 30 years. He has handled cases from all over the country, but he specializes in defending people charged with murder. Rafael has won acquittals for clients accused of murder in federal court, state court, military court-martial proceedings, and in municipal courts. He also has a law degree from Stanford University Law School and an undergraduate degree from Yale University.
Rafael served as a prosecutor for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office before he became a criminal defense attorney. His prosecutorial experience gives him insight into how prosecutors think when they are trying to convict someone.
Lenda Murray Portrayed Self
Lenda Murray is an American IFBB professional bodybuilder. She was born in 1957 in Ohio. She was the first female to win the Ms. Olympia title, which she won six consecutive times from 1980 to 1985. Lenda is also the only woman ever to have been declared the best bodybuilder in the world by Joe Weider, founder of the IFBB and Mr. Olympia contest. When she began her competitive career in 1977, there were no other professional female bodybuilders. In 1978, when promoter Ben Weider founded the Women’s World Championship, Lenda became its first winner. In 1979 and 1980 she won the Pro World Championship and earned her IFBB pro card after winning her class at the 1980 Ms. Olympia competition.
Lenda Murray still remains one of few women who has won what many consider the most prestigious trophy in sport–Ms. Olympia–six consecutive times.
Diane Dimond Portrayed Self
Diane Dimond, an award-winning investigative journalist, is best known for her coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. She was also the first person to interview serial killer Ted Bundy after he captured in 1978. After college, Dimond began her career at several newspapers before she became the youngest female news anchor ever hired by KYW-TV in Philadelphia in 1976. In 1981, she moved to Los Angeles to work for KCBS-TV as their lead morning news anchor until 1997 when she joined Court TV as their national correspondent providing live daily reports on trials across the country.
Wayne DeMillia Portrayed Self
Wayne DeMillia, a retired police officer, is the author of Sally McNeil: The True Story of a Bodybuilding Wife and Her Valentine’s Day Murder. In this true crime book, he tells the story of how Sally was arrested for her husband’s murder on February 14, 1987. He also includes their story from the time they met to when she became his wife in 1984. All seemed well until 1985 when it was revealed that she had been using steroids. She managed to have the charges dropped by agreeing to enter rehab. However, in 1986 it was revealed that she had not gone through with treatment and instead bought more steroids from another bodybuilder at a party. Now that her addiction is back out in the open, her case against Thomas Espey Jr is dropped again because prosecutors believe she should be held accountable for what she did while they were married.
After reading this blog post, one might wonder why Sally would agree to marry someone who knew about her steroid use prior to marriage but seemed reluctant or unable (or unwilling) to address it after their marriage began? Sally McNeil: The True Story of a Bodybuilding Wife and Her Valentine’s Day Murder
Rachel Louise Snyder Portrayed Self
When she was at her peak, Sally McNeil was one of the most famous female bodybuilders in the world. She became known as Killer McNeil during her competitive years. Today, she is serving a life sentence in prison after being convicted of murdering her husband on Valentine’s Day 2002. This story tells you about her life before the murder and about what happened to their marriage that led up to it. There are interviews with friends, family members, and Sally herself as well as personal photos. There are also court transcripts from the trial.
This book gives an insider view of this controversial event that has been covered by many media outlets over the past decade.
The true story of a bodybuilding wife who murdered her husband.
Melanie Jeffers Is DJs wife Portrayed Self
I am Melanie, I am the wife of DJ Self. I also happen to be a crime victim myself. My husband was shot in front of my son and me by his best friend, but that’s not the most important thing about us. We are parents, we are survivors, we are fighters. It is time for us to break the cycle of violence in our community. It is time for all victims to become allies and stop allowing fear, anger, or pain dictate how we live our lives.
The mission of DJ Self Foundation is simple- end gun violence!
We work with organizations like Mothers Against Senseless Killing (MASK) which provides trauma-informed care for families impacted by gun violence. MASK also offers an 8-week healing course called MASK2CARE that addresses mental health needs following exposure to traumatic events such as witnessing a homicide or experiencing rape or domestic violence.
Nancy Kaser-Boyd Is Forensic Psychologist Portrayed Self
Nancy Kaser-Boyd has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an MBA. She has been in private practice for over 30 years, providing psychological evaluations, counseling, and therapy. She received her certification as a forensic psychologist from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) in 1992. Nancy is also certified as an expert on fitness to stand trial from the ABPP. She wrote this post based on the true story of Sally McNeil, published by Netflix on March 3rd 2019.
The story begins with Sally and her husband Brad, who are both bodybuilders. They married early in their careers and move up the ranks together until they’re among America’s top competitors—but their marriage crumbles along with their careers when they divorce at middle age. When they get back together again, Sally starts seeing more potential in Brad and continues to train him while she trains herself back into shape.
Hugh Malay Portrayed Self
I’m not sure if I even want to start with the scene that is still fresh in my mind. It was October 16, 2011 when Sally McNeil killed her husband Greg with a shot to the head. I don’t know how many people saw it happen or heard the gunshot, but it was certainly enough. In my opinion, the most disconcerting part of this whole story is that Sally isn’t sorry at all. She doesn’t regret what she did and she only feels remorse for herself because she has been so unfairly treated by society since her arrest. One question we were always asking ourselves as filmmakers was Why?. Why would someone do something like this? What are the circumstances that lead someone to commit murder? I think you can answer those questions in one word- control. But then again, why does anyone feel like they need to control others? A lot of the time its because they have such low self-esteem. And then you have cases like Sally who has an over inflated sense of self worth- where he thinks she’s God and everyone else just needs to go get out of her way.
Lee Penman Portrayed Self
On February 14, 2016, Sally McNeil was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her husband. She plead guilty to shooting and killing her husband, Robert Bobby Lee Penman on Valentine’s Day 2015. The couple was married for seven years. They had two children together. Sally is from New York City and Bobby was from Cincinnati, Ohio. Sally has been competing in bodybuilding competitions since she was 19. Bobby worked as an electrician and managed his wife’s career. In 2014, Sally had surgery on her spine which led to spinal disc replacement surgery followed by more than 50 visits with doctors, physical therapy sessions and several months off work without pay.
In April 2014, Bobby told his wife he wanted a divorce after 23 years of marriage because he thought their marriage was over due to all the problems they were having related to their age difference (she is 15-years younger than him). It seemed like everything fell apart following that announcement but it didn’t stop them from continuing with their lives as usual until that fateful day of Feb 14th, when Bobby got shot dead by his wife.
Bill Wick Portrayed Self
Bill Wick is an award-winning writer who has published more than 500 articles, essays, and short stories. His work has been published in the National Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Vancouver Sun and Ottawa Citizen. He lives in Ottawa with his wife Sharon Wick. When he’s not writing or reading he can be found gardening or exploring some new corner of the city. Bill studied journalism at Carleton University, interned at the Calgary Herald and worked for five years as a reporter for Reuters before becoming a freelance writer.
Growing up in Ohio, Sally loved playing softball, reading novels and watching television. A talented student, she excelled in school from an early age. However, Sally was also bullied for being overweight as a child. After she graduated from high school, she moved to Florida with her mother to pursue her dream of becoming a professional bodybuilder.
Born in 1960, Sally McNeil was the youngest daughter of two hard-working immigrants from Jamaica. Growing up in New York, she attended Catholic school, where she excelled academically. Eventually, her life took a turn for the worse when her parents’ divorce caused her to stop attending school. With no father figure to show her how to be an independent woman, she turned to drugs and alcohol as an escape from reality. It wasn’t until she met her husband that everything changed. He taught her how to be tough and strong-minded again so that she could leave behind the life of addiction, abuse, and desperation with which she had grown up. Together they built a lucrative business empire centered on bodybuilding supplements before he became abusive once more.
Sally McNeil, born in 1960, is an American former professional bodybuilder who married Jerry Waller in 1975. Together they had three children before their marriage ended in 1989, when Sally was allegedly raped by Jerry. Waller then remarried to another woman and fathered two more children. In 1997, Sally re-married to a man named Rod Ferrell with whom she had two more children. But on the morning of February 14th, 2003, Rod brutally murdered Sally by stabbing her nine times with a butcher knife before going on the run.
On February 14th, 1980, Sally McNeil was found murdered in her home. Three weeks later, her husband Bill was arrested for the crime. He confessed to stabbing Sally in the neck with a kitchen knife while they were preparing dinner. Despite his confession, Bill insisted that he loved Sally and had no intention of killing her.
The prosecution argued that Bill killed Sally because she was talking about leaving him. They also claimed that he would never have let her go without fighting for custody of their two children. Prosecutors also suggested that Bill had tried to kill Sally before – once by running over her with his car; another time when he hit her with an ax handle.
Trial and Aftermath
In 1988, Sally McNeil was convicted for the murders of her husband, Danny McNeil, and their friend, Ronnie King. She is currently serving two life sentences without parole at the California Institution for Women in Corona.
In 1980, Sally met her future husband Danny while attending college in Oklahoma City. Both were bodybuilders but he was also an alcoholic. They married in 1981 and had two children but Danny continued to drink despite promises to stop. In 1984 she filed for divorce which he agreed to temporarily on the condition that they would train for a bodybuilding competition together.
Since her arrest, Sally has been in jail awaiting trial. She is still claiming that she shot her husband because he was beating her. It is likely that she will not be granted bail due to the seriousness of the charges, but she was offered a plea bargain which would have resulted in less time served if she agreed to plead guilty. She refused to take the plea bargain, hoping for an acquittal by jury. In the event that Sally does not get acquitted, it is unlikely that there will be any leniency in sentencing due to her refusal to accept the plea bargain offer.